August 30, 2013

I am NOT a Journalist

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I write about video games, anime and nerdy stuff on the internet for money. Inevitably, people will then refer to me as a “games journalist” or some variation on that term. Before we go any further, I do not feel what I do deserves the title of Journalism, no matter how passionate I am about one day writing an article worthy of that praise.

I am not a Journalist. The catalyst for this post was a single article I wrote earlier this week. It was an article I’d wanted to tackle for a while about a specific Video Game Publisher. The article aimed to take them to task the the Sexism and anti female sentiment inherent in the design of their games, the public marketing of their products (including items in special editions) and the events they run for press covering their games. The article placed these critisisms side by side with praise for two separate games they published this generation that were incredibly forward thinking in their representation of gender, but I specifically wanted to call them out on this pair of sexually liberating games and the needless sexism in the way the games were presented and how they put me off supporting their games more strongly. I reached out to the company and didn’t receive a response.

I was really proud of myself, I felt like what I consider a journalist. I found photographic evidence of events that were before my time where women were marginalised, I found great quotes from industry members about how uncomfortable they were with the companies choices and felt I had balanced the article well with examples of how the companies end products were often the exact opposite of this problem marketing I had issues with as a woman in the games industry.

However, I’m not a Journalist, I’m part of a PR cycle. I submitted this article to Unnamed Gaming Site and about four hours later I was woken by a phone call from my editor. To summarise the phone call, my editor and sub editor both loved the piece and were happy to see someone writing something for them that had some substance, but they opted not to publish the article. The reason given is that they feared the damage it would do to my career. They feared the higher ups who own the site would demand it be pulled as to not hurt the sites PR interests. They feared the PR company might threaten legal action against me as an individual, regardless of my providing photographic or statemented evidence of every claim. They feared that the publisher would not be happy with the article and that they would restrict my access to materials essential to my career progression through blacklisting. They feared the PR’s power. In any other industry the subject of the article would fear the power of the Press. They fear Journalism, not the other way around.

I am not a Journalist. Rather than covering the problem at hand, the sexism pushing me away from my chosen career path, I caved in and did not push to have the piece published. Rather than making my criticisms of the company public and encouraging the company to publicly respond to the criticism that would likely spread across twitter, I folded and allowed the power they have over the gaming press to once again prevail. I wonder how many other people have tried to write this article and been encouraged not to. I wonder how I, as a freelancer still trying to make a name for myself, can perform real acts of journalism without forever limiting my ability to increase the size of the podium from which I can talk about these issues.

I am not a journalist, but it has been done by some people out there. Cara Ellison recently published an article about the second Hotline Miami and it’s allegations of Rape at the end of the intro mission. Maybe the difference is that it’s okay to critisise the product, but not the company behind it? I don’t know, I just know that I’m afraid to speak out against company actions when my Editors advise me against it for fear of harming myself and the site. 

I am not a Journalist. I don’t know how to speak out against specific sompanies and their actions while protecting my interests. I stick to writing reviews, opinions, previews and critiques. I post the news as fast as possible, I write reviews that meet the requirements set out in the embargo information. I do things that the companies expect and can plan against. I don’t take companies to task when their press events involve (purely female) pole dancers, lap dancers or needlessly sexulaised female staff. I don’t take them to task when they make me uncomfortable, I just grin and bear it so I can get another early preview. So I can help them get buzz going for the game.



Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Dang, I really want to read this article now.

    For what it’s worth, I think there are more than a few “traditional” journalists who struggle with these issues as well. Except instead of corporate PR, we’re pushing Western imperialism/partisan agendas/celebrity voyeurism, and the conformist pressures tend to be internal rather than external. The idealistic guilt remains the same though; it’s an occupational hazard.

    Still, it’d be nice if games journalism wasn’t so dependent on the very industry it’s supposed to be critiquing. Healthy criticism and objective reporting are vital to both the industry and the medium, and more game devs need to recognize this or we’ll stagnate.

    Anyway, don’t lose hope. Respectable games journalism is a cause worth fighting for, and I think more institutions (Giant Bomb, Polygon, The Cut) are beginning to realize this. Journalist or not, your voice is important, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

  2. Surely this is an issue which could be fixed if readers demanded more articles like this. I for one would welcome articles like this on gaming sites. In the print industry, A newspaper like the Guardian manages to turn a profit because their readership buys it. The Guardian’s readership buy it because they want healthy criticism and objective reporting (I think). If this reader exists for news journalism, they must exist (in some number) for games journalism. Is it possible to write for the Guardian equivalent in gaming.. whoever that is.. Polygon maybe?

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